Jackie Robinson Day celebrated in space Terry Virts, aboard the International Space Station. Jackie Robinson, in 1948, at left. (@AstroTerry / Twitter; AP photo)
Jackie Robinson Day celebrated in space
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Jackie Robinson Day was even celebrated in space this year.

While Rachel Robinson, the player's 92-year-old widow, and Commissioner Rob Manfred honored Major League Baseball's first black player in a ceremony April 15 at Dodger Stadium, in conjunction with the annual Civil Rights Game, astronaut Terry Virts wore a Dodgers jersey with Robinson's No. 42 along with a Brooklyn cap on the International Space Station orbiting the Earth.

The day marked the 68th anniversary of Robinson breaking the major league color barrier. His team. the Dodgers, announced they will erect a statue of him at their ballpark. Robinson died in 1972.

"I can remember reading a book about Jackie when I was in the first grade," Virts said in a video posted on MLB.com. "Even at that young age, I was really impressed with what he did beyond baseball. Jackie, alongside his wife Rachel, opened up a world of opportunities that had been closed to so many Americans simply because of the color of their skin. What he did took courage, a lot of courage. He had to endure things that most of us could not imagine and he had to do it while maintaining composure that most of us couldn't begin to muster."

Robinson's No. 42 was retired throughout the major leagues in 1997, with players already using the number grandfathered in. Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera was the last player to wear it, in 2013. Then-Commissioner Bud Selig decided in 2005 that all teams would honor Robinson each April 15. Every major league player, manager and coach on the field wears No. 42 on the date.

"Jackie is the most historic figure who ever played the game, so it's fitting that we honor his legacy by adding the Civil Rights Game on the same day as Jackie Robinson Day," Manfred said.

Speaking at a news conference prior to a Dodgers game, Manfred and Rachel Robinson were flanked by team owner Magic Johnson and club President Stan Kasten, who announced that a statue of Robinson will be erected and placed on the stadium's grounds sometime this year, although the location has yet to be determined.

"It's a true blessing for me to sit here with Rachel and understand what her husband has meant to changing society, changing the world and changing baseball," Johnson said, his eyes glistening. "I feel like he's still here his presence, his legacy."

Rachel Robinson, whose children also were in hand, was escorted to the pitcher's mound by Sandy Koufax, the Hall of Fame pitcher. A video presentation was shown on the scoreboards behind the pavilions in left and right field. A No. 42 was stenciled on the back slope of the mound and behind second base Robinson's position.

Most fans wore Dodgers jerseys with Robinson's number on the back, which they received as they entered the ballpark.

Robinson was a six-time All-Star, the 1947 major league Rookie of the Year and the NL MVP in 1949, when he won the National League's batting title.

"Jackie was the only black man that I knew of at that time who could have done the job that he did and do it with the pride that he did it," former teammate Don Newcombe said. "That's why he was so respected. Martin Luther King came to my house one night for dinner 28 days before he died in Memphis. He said to me: 'Don, I want you and Jackie and Roy Campanella and Larry Doby to know that without you, I would never have made it as successfully as I have in civil rights if it were not for what you men did on the baseball field.'"

In New York, Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson wore special spikes with Robinson's No. 42 on the side.

Opening-day major league baseball rosters included 8.3 percent of players who identified as African-American, according to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida. That was a slight increase from 8.2 last year, which equaled the study low set in 2007.

"We all recognize that there's a tremendous amount of athletes that are migrating to football and basketball," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "Create more space in the inner cities is one possible way to do it."

Critical thinking challenge: What is meant by the phrase breaking the major league color barrier?

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COMMENTS (11)
  • KiraWvA-4
    4/20/2015 - 10:43 p.m.

    Jackie Robinson Day is honored every April 15th, and all MLB players, managers and coaches wear the number 42 as they play. This day is in place to celebrate all the changes Robinson wrought and all the opportunities he created for colored people to play and have a broader spectrum of free life than they had before, and the Dodgers have decided to erect a statue of him at an undecided location within their stadium. Even in space an astronaut on the ISS, Terry Virts, wore a jersey and cap. I like how Robinson got a day of the year, because he was an amazing person and had so much courage to put up with all the discrimination.

  • Time-Pav
    4/21/2015 - 09:59 a.m.

    I myself am a huge Jackie Robinson fan! If I could get the chance to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day in Space, I wouldn't think twice about it! That would be awesome!

  • alberts-Eic
    4/21/2015 - 01:41 p.m.

    Why not Jackie Robinson was a big inspiration to many people and still is shown by media on how his amazing achievements number 72 will be remembered for ever.

  • vancer-Che
    4/21/2015 - 01:46 p.m.

    I love Jackie Robinson, great player, glad that the MLB honors his legacy. Glad they retired his number but it is kind of hard to tell the difference when everyone is wearing 42.

  • namelt-Che
    4/21/2015 - 01:48 p.m.

    I really think that this is cool because they got to celebrate Jackie Robinsons birthday in space. If I had the opportunity to celebrate his birthday in space, I would be scared but I would really enjoy it.

  • erinbundy-Goo
    4/22/2015 - 09:38 a.m.

    In the article, the author talks about Jackie Robinson "breaking the color barrier." The text states that Jackie Robinson was the first African-American baseball player. The text also states that Jackie Robinson was praised by Martin Luther King Jr. because without Robinson's actions, Martin Luther King Jr. wouldn't have made it so successfully in the civil rights movement. The evidence from the text suggests that Robinson "breaking the color barrier" means that his actions gave a "push" to the acceptance of the fact that African-Americans are equal to every other race, and that they can participate in whatever activity they'd like to, and still be successful.

  • carlosv-Che
    4/23/2015 - 01:46 p.m.

    all these artcles are so boring and nothing is interesting about them and they are all getting old because its like the same stuff everyday they needa step there game up or more stuff.

  • ShawnaWeiser-Ste
    4/24/2015 - 01:19 p.m.

    Jackie Robinson was great for our country to move toward a perfect culture. I think its amazing that he is still celebrated to this day- not to even mention in space! America needs more inspirations like Jackie Robinson to become a great country for future generations.

  • chriss-Koc
    4/26/2015 - 06:08 p.m.

    this is really cool! I had no idea the there was such thing as Jacky Robinson day. cool that the astronauts are even celebrating in space, I remember reading about him and all the hatred and hurt full things that the MLB player were saying to him. Shout outs to Jacky! Black Power.

  • jorgeh-Koc
    4/27/2015 - 12:44 a.m.

    The dodgers are my favorite team. Jackie Robinson was a great player and opened up the gates to baseball to many other colors of race other than white. Its realy cool that he was honored up in space as well as at the dodgers stadium.

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